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Norwegian University of Science and Technology: Horizon 2020 is a key priority, but high TRLs are a concern

08 December 2016

For the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), participation in Horizon 2020 is a number one priority. The framework programme gives us the opportunity to collaborate with excellent research and innovation actors in Europe and beyond in cross-sectoral teams. Participation benchmarks our research and innovation activities both in terms of quality and relevance. It gives us the opportunity to contribute to research-based solutions to the challenges that Europe and the international community face, be it in energy, environment or in health.

Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyNTNU is dedicated to contributing to the success of Horizon 2020. The goal of the university is to double its income from Horizon 2020 compared to the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). This is indeed challenging bearing in mind that success rates have decreased dramatically. Still, as Norway’s largest university with 39,000 students and 6,700 employees, a national responsibility for technology research and education, a main profile in science and technology, as well as a broad-based profile including social sciences, humanities, architecture and medicine, Horizon 2020 offers the university a gold mine of opportunities to engage in exciting research and innovation projects together with excellent scientists and practitioners worldwide.
 
For the second half of Horizon 2020, as well as for future framework programmes, we strongly believe at NTNU that Europe will benefit from a continuation of the “Excellence” pillar as a cornerstone of the programmes. Curiosity-driven research, frontier technological research, word-class infrastructures, as well as researcher mobility and training must be sufficiently funded for Europe to tackle existing and future societal challenges through innovative solutions.

At NTNU, we are also convinced that Europe will benefit from a better balance between basic research and innovation in the framework programmes. So far, the Horizon 2020 “Societal Challenges” pillar thematic programmes have, overall, given priority to projects with high technology readiness levels (TRLs). A lack of funding of middle TRL research may eventually lead to an insufficient science base to support high TRL research and innovation for society and industry. More funding for middle TRL research is of utmost importance to fill the potential gap between low and high TRL research. To avoid a potential valley of death, the connection between fundamental research and innovation needs to be strengthened. 

Furthermore, the level of funding for collaborative projects in the Horizon 2020 “Societal Challenges” and “Industrial Leadership” pillars is not sufficiently aligned with expectations. Cutting budgets while retaining the original ambitious goals in conjunction with a drop in success rates, is a matter of concern. Oversubscription is a fact. Only one in four high-quality proposals is funded. This is a clear indication that collaborative science is being underfunded. The low success rates are discouraging to academia, research institutes and industry alike. Europe will benefit from sufficient and sustainable funding levels for collaborative projects as they play a fundamental role in the integration of knowledge in Europe and are vital in the implementation of the European Research Area. 

By Gunnar Bovim

Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyGunnar Bovim is the Rector of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and a member of the EUA Research Policy Working Group.




To see the findings of the EUA membership consultation on Horizon 2020, please click here.

Photo © Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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